A Story by Graham Swanson

Boys get lost in the woods


Three boys trudged into the woods behind their home. Mike held the bag, Paul followed close behind, and a George struggled to keep up. While Paul was the same age as Mike, his little brother was somewhere around a decade younger. They heard him fall in the woods. Mike shouted at him to get up. Paul didn’t say a word. The full moon hung in the night sky undisturbed by clouds. He had just turned fifteen, and timing just couldn’t be better. He wanted to see the ritual, needed to see it, though he believed in no such creatures as ghost or demons. He went to church like the rest of his class, but he felt more or less agnostic. God isn’t visible, nor are angels, Satan, or hell, so how can we know this all exists? Of course he could never say anything. Speak like that gets boys beat up and thrown into mud. It’s always better in rural towns like this to keep your mouth shut, he knew, but the dim opportunity to expose light on the mysteries of the world kept his imagination alight.        

            “Maybe Skinny Wolf got him.” Paul said to Mike.

            “Yeah he waits for slow children to come into his woods, then he eats them!” He laughed, pointing his flashlight in the direction of the stumbling preschooler. The bush was up to his chest, his red coat had a hole torn through it, exposing the superhero pajamas underneath. “Don’t you have a pair of jammies like that, Paul? Ha!”

            “No! I threw them out. I’m too old for that kid stuff.”

            “Paul…” George moaned, his voice labored and exhausted. “I want to go home.”

            “We’re almost there. Don’t you want to be like a big kid?” Mike heckled, leading the way through the dark. “Out here used to be old house. The city tore it down, but the spot is still there. You’ll know when you see it.”

            “Why are we going there, Paul?”

            “Because a hermit named Skinny Wolf used to live there.” Mike replied. “They say by the time someone got around to visiting the house, all that was left of his was a bone white skeleton. That’s how lonely this guy was. Died and no one noticed.”

            “Who found him?” Paul asked.

            “Guy came to check the meter. Anyway, little Georgie, know what else they found in that house? Tiny shrunken skulls, boiling cauldrons, and bones of little kids.”

            “Paul, I’m scared.”

            Mike crossed his arms and stared at Paul.

            “Come on, George. Don’t be such a kid.” The older brother dictated.

            “Yeah, we’re almost there.” Mike pointed with the flashlight at a chunk of forest clear of trees. Grass had grown over the lot, but chunks of concrete still littered the woods. “Word is that he was some kind of demon worshiper. Cooked kids up, not for food, but to appease his demon lords. That’s what we’re doing out here, Georgie. We’re going to talk to him, and find out how to summon these demons.”

            They stood in a triangle as Mike took out what he needed. Candles, and torches. A book, bound in thin, peeling leather. A knife, and a board of wood with a star neatly traced in the center. Like he had seen in the movies, the make shift alter was laid out. The three boys sat around the board. George shook from the cold. Paul kept his head down. He felt like a fool. Every aspect of this night was asinine. Yet Mike seemed to be thrilled. He cut his hand and placed it over the star. He spoke what sounded like gibberish to Paul, the pulled his hand up, exposing the small red puddle. Mike took a candle and dripped wax into it. Then, he began to call out for Skinny Wolf to come to them. Nothing happened. The night grew colder.

            “Mike this is stupid.”

            “No, it will work. We just need to give it a second. Hear that?”

They all stopped to listen to the woods.

            “It’s just an animal. Look, its three AM, we need to be getting back.”

            “You’re just being a p***y. Too scared, Mikey?”

            “No, I’m not scared. Watch.” He took the knife, cutting open his palm with a slow, deliberate motion. Blood pooled from under the blade. Drips fell to the forest floor before the cold steel could even leave his palm. He held his bleeding hand over the center and filled the center of the star with his pouring life force. Mike dripped wax into the blood. He held his palm tight, but it kept bleeding. He set the knife down. “Skinny Wolf, Skinny Wolf, we summon you! Come, spirit, and make yourself known. Don’t be afraid of us, we are peaceful. We wish to know the name of the demons you worshipped. We wish to know your secrets. Please, spirit, come! We call on you, Skinny Wolf, to live once more!”

            Nothing happened.

            “I’ll be back.” Mike said.

            “Where are you going?” Paul protested.

            “To take a piss.” He stood up, and disappeared from the light of the candles.

            The two brothers waited. A cloud passed over the moon, then left.

            “Paul? I want to go home.”

            “Me too. It’s cold, the wood are pokey, its dark out… yeah lets go home. Mike!” He shouted. “We’re going home. Come out.”

            No one responded.

            “It’s not funny.  We’re leaving right now.” He stood up, and motioned for George to follow. The little boy sat and shivered. Paul sighed, and picked him up. The kid had grown heavy, but Paul carried him everywhere. “We’re leaving you behind, Mike.”

            Then they went off, leaving the candles aflame. They walked for nearly twenty minutes. Then twenty five. Then thirty. Paul found that the way back was taking him twice as long as it did before. Then a horrible thought occurred. That he had gone the wrong way.

            “George? We need to find a road. I bet that’s where Mike went. We just need to find his trail.”

They lingered through the moonlight, the brush growing thicker.  Yet George was the one to spot something hanging from a tree. Paul approached the tree to make sure. A shirt dangled from a branch, the plaid flannel of Mike. One of his pseudo cowboy boots stuck from the dirt.

            Paul went further into the woods, cradling George close to him. He took a broken branch, and held it like a club. In the distance, he thought he heard the drone of cars passing the highway. He wanted to call his parents, tell George that they were almost home, but as his spirits rose, steel jaws shot from the fallen leaves and bit his ankle. Paul screamed like the kid he had once been, dropping George and falling to the ground. Tears streamed from his face. He took hold of George.

            “Listen, little brother, I’m in a trap. You have to get to the road and get help. Hurry, go!”

George cried too as he waddled into the dark. Mist began to rise from the ground. Drops of moisture fell from the black branches of autumn trees. He couldn’t hear his brother anymore. All he could hear was the sound of his own heart, and his own slow breathing. Yet lights began to appear from behind layers of leaves and branches. He felt hungry and cranky. He could hear a familiar hum, the sound of an approaching car. A loud one, just like his dad’s truck. Excited he jumped through the rest of the woods, through the bush, until he found himself free from the woods, and in the middle of a paved road. Twin headlights narrowed in on him. The vehicle slowed, then waited in the road. George ran to the driver.

            “You have to help! My brother is trapped in the woods and is bleeding and needs help!”

            “Trapped in the woods? That’s no place for boys this late. Get in the car, I’ll take you to your parents and we can figure out what to do.”

            George went around the hood, and got in. The car smelled like burned cigarettes and old peanut butter. An air freshener tried to cover it, but only accented the scent with a pine masking.

            “What’s your name, kid?” The driver asked. He looked older, but the way an adult should. With stern, serious eyes, and a clean beard.


            “Well, George, where do you and your brother live?”

            George had to remember a song they had taught him in preschool.

            “1414 7th avenue, Elk Head, 402 239 5787.”

            “Kid’s shouldn’t be in the forest this late. Who knows what’s running around at this hour?”

A sign on the road approached at an intersection. ELKHEAD Pop. 2347, 5 mi north. The car sped by the sign. George held his finger on the road he wanted the car to travel down. But it didn’t turn. The car sped up.

            “I think your brother’s going to be ok.” The voice sounded thicker, and slower. “He and his friend shouldn’t have come into my woods. Do you believe in ghosts, little boy?” The driver turned his head around to face George. The boy’s jaw dropped. The man driving wasn’t the fellow he saw on the road, but someone else. The inky scent of burning paper filled the cab and overcame the other aromas. The driver’s face seemed to sink into his own wrinkles, and it kept flowing until he became something completely different. 

© 2015 Graham Swanson

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Wow, I like this. This is the best thing I have read all night. My favorite part about your writing is the interactions of the boys. It was way entertaining and made me keep wanting to read to find out what was going to happen. Good job.

Posted 7 Years Ago

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Added on July 11, 2015
Last Updated on July 11, 2015
Tags: horror, ghost, forest, children


Graham Swanson
Graham Swanson

Lincoln, NE

I'm going to school at University of Nebraska. I like to write horror, and I've recently been looking into Gothic Fiction, and music because I find it kindling, but I also have an interest in mysticis.. more..